Proud of our opportunities, but also proactive in recognizing our downfalls

AMS to create a document that addresses the learning experience

Charles Sumbler, Academic Affairs Commissioner
Charles Sumbler, Academic Affairs Commissioner

On Sept. 30, the AMS made a two-hour presentation to the Board of Trustees, the governing body responsible for the overall operation of the University and for overseeing financial matters and
senior appointments.

With a diverse 44-person membership—which includes undergraduate students, faculty, alumni, Order of Canada winners and an astronaut—the board has the capacity to impact the goals, mission and values of this institution. After rigorous debate and consultation, they set your tuition fees, select our Principal and hold administrators accountable.

As one of the organizers behind this AMS presentation, I was nervous as to how we would be received and if we would be heading for the door having only managed a mere token presentation.

We did have a clear goal going in—not to speak about the AMS, but to facilitate an opportunity for
students to interact with some key decision-makers. Ten students from different faculties and years—some affiliated with the AMS, some not— participated in the presentation. The only instruction for
the student participants was to be completely open about the experience they expected at Queen’s versus the reality—both good and bad—of the time they have spent here. The session theme was
“Undergraduate Student Life and Learning,” and we focused on the in-class learning environment and
learning opportunities that happen as a result of the activities so many students participate in outside the classroom. In the end, the session was successful and the discussions trustees had in small groups with individual students proved to be the most rewarding.

The hope was that trustees would rotate through five groups of students in about 70 minutes. We only managed to get through three rotations in 1.5 hours. Many trustees said they could have spent more time with each group of students. The students commented how well the trustees listened to them
and tried to gain a perspective of what they were saying. Since many trustees were former Queen’s students, they shared similar perspectives of many experiences.

Student-faculty ratios, the concerns of international students and the need to examine how we offer learning opportunities at Queen’s were some of the many topics at a glance. The session concluded that these topics needed to be looked at in greater depth in order to secure the University as a place
of learning and opportunity for undergraduate students.

The AMS has a major role to play because it’s a place of learning for the entire Queen’s community. We are very proud of the opportunities we provide to students and for the opportunity to be engaged in the broader shaping of the University. We also recognize that we need to be proactive in recognizing
our own downfalls as well as the weaknesses of the University. At the AMS, and arguably throughout this institution, we haven’t done a good enough job in making this place about learning. We recognize that funding issues will be a reality and that faculty shortage will take time to stem, but we have many other opportunities to encourage better teaching from everyone—not just faculty—and make Queen’s reputable for its dedication to learning. Over the next several months, the AMS will be putting resources and efforts forward to produce a document that will set out a vision and some recommendations for making Queen’s a place of great undergraduate learning.

We want this document to be adaptive, inspiring and honest to the realities of today while aiming for future possibilities. Moreover, we want to work in partnership with all Queen’s stakeholders to make this document realistic and reflective of what it means to learn at Queen’s. Queen’s students need to
be involved in the discussion of the future of their university, as mentioned in the Board of Trustees presentation. We want to build on our proud history but not rest on it. We need to be innovative and inspiring to get everyone motivated. To get involved with academic issues, e-mail academics@
ams.queensu.ca

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